All Blacks conquer England to complete Grand Slam

By Gregor Paul

England 6 All Blacks 32

LONDON - Job done, Grand Slam claimed. There was no glorious finale, no performance to last the ages and cap the tour in style.

There was a big scoreline, but this was a performance built on graft and bludgeon rather than Champagne and rapier. This was a game that had to be endured, rather than enjoyed both for the players and the spectators.

That explains why there was no jumping for joy at the final whistle. The overriding emotion was relief the Grand Slam was nice but the relief was as much for the fact that after 15 tests the season was finally over.

The celebrations will come later, when it slowly sinks in what a seriously impressive year it has been for the All Blacks. There was a point this season when hope and confidence were in desperately short supply.

The exodus took half their team, their 30-game unbeaten run came to an end in July and when they were duffed up royally in Sydney, the season was in danger of crashing into the buffers with very few survivors.

And yet, when fulltime was reached at Twickenham, the All Blacks had claimed 13 test victories, the Bledisloe Cup, the Tri Nations and a Grand Slam.

Ideally, they would have loved to have romped all over Twickenham, scoring at their leisure and building a memory to last through the summer.

But, on a day cold enough to put out the fires of hell, New Zealand couldn't get their engine purring the way they would have liked.

England made it hard for them. A rabble last weekend, they found some ticker this morning and put themselves about.

Maybe they accepted they were giving plenty away in skill, pace and precision but they obviously decided there was no reason for them to walk off their home ground having been outdone in terms of passion.

That made life awkward for the All Blacks, who were only able to score their first try after 60 minutes. It took them that long to break the resistance of an English defence that was quite admirably defiant.

The big break came when some straight running, good timing of the pass and clever support lines left Mils Muliaina charging for the corner on the angle. He slid in to make it 17-6 and then you knew it was okay to think about history having been made.

It was also okay at that point to start wondering how big the margin of victory was going to be.

England had been clinging on more than anything else and once they fell behind the kind of margin that required them to score a try to get back into the contest, their energy was going to flag.

Muliaina was over again a few minutes later when he collected an almost lateral chip kick from Dan Carter and found no one in front.

When Ma'a Nonu coasted over from 40 metres after some slick interchange to score the try of the game, it was threatening to get really ugly. There was a chance the All Blacks were going to inflict the kind of psychological damage that England would not come back from for some time.

There were too many mistakes, though, for the final result to be terminal for England. That was hardly surprising, the sleet was sweeping in and it was miserable. It was not weather conducive for a flowing game.

The hands would have been frozen, the ball wet, the wind icy. As professional as the All Blacks are, no one could fault them if, kin the final quarter, they let their thoughts drift to summer and the warmth of home.

England didn't play with belief or give the impression they were out there to win. They took the damage limitation to the extreme. There was nonsense at every breakdown. The most consistent crime was flopping over the top, immediately leaving their feet on entry to the collision.

After half an hour, referee Alain Rolland had seen enough and it was time for yellow cards. That led to a procession of England men traipsing to the sideline. First Lee Mears, then James Haskell, Toby Flood for a high tackle and finally Tom Rees.

The timing worked out as such so that it seemed as if England were running a one-on, one-off policy. It was, at least, one of the few strategies employed by the home side that they managed to carry out with any conviction.

New Zealand 32 (Mils Muliaina 2, Ma'a Nonu tries; Dan Carter 5 pen, con) bt England 6 (Toby Flood pen, Delon Armitage pen). Halftime: 12-3.

ALL BLACKS END OF YEAR TOUR RESULTS

Nov 1 v Australia at Hong Kong won 19-14
Nov 9 v Scotland at Edinburgh won 32-6
Nov 16 v Ireland at Dublin won 22-3
Nov 19 v Munster at Limerick won 18-16
Nov 23 v Wales at Cardiff won 29-9
Nov 30 v England at London won 32-6

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